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  • Writer's pictureBecky Wallis

Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (St Martins Theatre) - Review

If there is anywhere that is constantly evolving and growing, it’s London. New buildings here, a new train line there, people coming and going in a constant hustle and bustle, one day into the next. There isn’t much that stays the same, there isn’t much that withstands the test of time. Away from the monuments, away from anything protected by some law, it is easy to say that most of London’s past is hidden away under the sheen and shine of new modern adaptations to the ever developing city. But in the glitz and the glamour of London’s West End, a merry-go-round of shows sliding in one day and slipping out another, there is one constant, one thing that hasn’t changed since, standing proud as the world instead changes around it. And that one thing is, of course, Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, the world famous theatrical production that has been running for nearly 72 years.

Twenty Nine Thousand, Six Hundred and Nineteen. That’s a big number, let that sink in. And that number has only gone up since the moment I am going to be talking about. A counter stands in prime spot in the foyer of the cosy traditional St Martins Theatre, keeping record of the performance number for this classic murder mystery. The large performance number is part of the novelty of this production, an element that only adds to its universal fame. It is a piece of history, a time capsule almost, and something that draws many a murder mystery fan into London, it’s a classic, something that has to be seen, has to be experienced.

On Monday 27th May 2024, ‘The Mousetrap’ played its Twenty Nine Thousand, Six Hundred and Nineteenth performance at the St Martins Theatre, its second London home since 1952 - it used to live next door at the Ambassador’s Theatre. Not only was this another performance in that famous tally, another day on ‘The Mousetrap’’s longest running production record, but it was only the first performance of the newest cast to take to the stage, the newest cast to step into the history of it all. And I was in attendance.

It’s a dark and snowy winter’s day, and Mollie and Giles Ralston (Lucy Doyle and Daniel Cech-Lucas) are welcoming visitors to their brand new guesthouse, Monkswell Manor, for the very first time, and we are introduced to an eclectic mix of strangers. News of a murder in London is in the air, and when a police inspector turns up in the middle of snowstorm with the accusation that the murderer is amongst those now snowed in to the manor, its a race against time to find the culprit as secrets are revealed. What follows is a tale of twists and turns that keeps the audience guessing on the edge of their seats, for no one now writes murder mysteries like Agatha Christie did, one moment you think you know who did it, the next you are second guessing your own thoughts. The identity of ‘who did it’s is perhaps one of theatre’s best kept secrets, with each audience invited to keep the secret at the end of each performance. Again, much like the counter, the secret remaining secret is just another part of the magic of this production.

A young married couple inherit a Manor House, and decide to turn it into a guesthouse, that may sound familiar to fans of the BBC sitcom ‘Ghosts’, but stay with me, there’s no ghosts here, and I’m not talking about Mike and Alison, I’m talking about Giles and Mollie. They’ve opened their business and ultimately their home to these relative strangers, and they have to keep them happy. In a show that has been running for such a long time, you would be forgiven for thinking that it would be hard for each cast not to simply be a carbon copy of the last, especially as the cast changes roughly every six months, but each cast actually bring something new, their own takes on the characters, coming from someone who has seen this production three times. Doyle and Cech-Lucas come to the roles of Mollie and Giles with bundles of energy and a wide eyed innocence, a belief that the guesthouse will thrive and be a massive success, even with an inspector in residence. Having previously spent a year performing together as Chris and Sandra in Mischief Theatre’s ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’, the pair have a lovely, sweet chemistry as a young couple that makes their interactions and their reactions to how those around them treat them all the more believable.

Those who come to stay at Monkswell Manor are quirky, to say the least. Young, bubbly, and somewhat hyperactive Christopher Wren (Lynton Appleton) keeps everyone else on their toes with his antics, and the audience cannot help but love Appleton’s exuberant interpretation of the character. Elyssia Roe’s Miss Casewell is a modern woman of mystery, both poised as in graceful and poised as in ready to strike. She knows what she wants, and she won’t let others tell her how to behave. Mrs Boyle (Jules Melvin) is stuck in her ways, the ever serious icon of calm, whilst Mr Paravicini, played by Lorenzo Martelli, revels in the chaos with his over the top delight and fascination with the macabre. Ben Onwukwe’s Major Metcalfe, the ever kindly gentleman, brings a sensible attitude to proceedings, a voice of reason.

Detective Sgt. Trotter, played by Sam Stafford, commands attention, both from the gathered residents of the manor and from the audience who hang on his every word. Through the work of Trotter, we see the story come together, piece by piece, secrets are told, the past is unravelled and Stafford takes it in, calmly and believably as the inquisitive police man.

You know that a stage production both has the audience completely hooked when you could hear a pin drop in the tense moments, everyone lost in the story, the silence broken only by gasps as the secrets are revealed and laughter at these brilliantly written and performed characters. You could believe that it’s strange that laughter features so prominently in a serious murder mystery, but that is simply one element of the brilliance of Christie’s writing. These characters are completely believable as real people, flawed humans and they are funny, amazingly so. This show, within its secrets and its twists and turns, has some truly laugh out loud moments, and there is something very magic about that. I don’t think that I would be the only person to say that no one writes murder mystery stories like Christie did, no one writes flawed characters that you can laugh at and laugh wit, whilst also making them each have stories that can shock and surprise below the laughter and the day to day of their ordinary lives.

Agatha Christie thought that ‘The Mousetrap’ would run for eight months maximum, but upon her death in 1976, the show had been running for 24 years, and its now been running for 72 years, with no sign of slowing down any time soon. Whilst she may have claimed this not to be the favourite play that she had written, no, she gave that title to ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ (which is also running in London, at County Hall), but it is definitely her best known stage production. Over the years, ‘The Mousetrap’ has become an institution in itself, a show that tourists are desperate to see upon their visit to the west end, the show that theatre fans simply have to tick off of their lists. It is world famous, record breaking and perhaps the best known show on earth. Long may it continue to reign.

And remember, keep the secret.


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